What the potential?

It’s an odd one isn’t it. You’ll be reading this most likely on your commute to work, at your desk, or whilst doing something humdrum. You’ll give it a thought, and let it pass. You’ll get on and do what you’re paid to do, and come back tomorrow to do the same. There will be meetings, there will be lunch, there will be interesting people to connect with, and it’ll all pass without a second thought. It’s life.

Was there a reason you started working in the profession you are in? I’m kind of asking the question Jerry Maguire found himself asking before he got sacked from his sports representative job. His ah ha moment lead to a life changing set of events. Most of us won’t have that though. Even now, you’re just reading thinking, “yeah, I remember that in the movie”.

I’m asking you, dear reader, what’s your reason for being at work? Is it to pay the bills? Is it to buy a new house? Is it to move country? Is it to provide for your family? Is it to have job security? All of those are very valid you know. And if you’re sure it’s one of them, then carry on and do the job you’re paid to do.

But what if your purpose is something else? What if your purpose is to help others? It’s to develop others? It’s to carve your own life? It’s to write your own destiny? It’s to right the problems in society? Are you supposed to pack up your nice well paid job and fulfil your life’s dream? (Please don’t take that as a call to action if you’re not in the position to do so)

But certainly, you’re now thinking, “well what is my purpose I wonder?” And you’ll probably stop at that question. Unless you can talk to someone. Pose that question to someone you trust? A friend? Your partner? A trusted colleague? Maybe even a coach or mentor? That conversation, well it could lead somewhere that’s for sure.

We’re all finding our way in this world. We all have pressures, insecurities, ambitions, and more that drive us to do the work we do. Some of us will be lucky enough to be able to determine that path on our terms. I want you to do that. I want you to believe you can live a fulfilled life. I want you to be the best you can be.

Or you can just think, “Hmm, that was interesting” and carry on doing what you’re paid to do.

The half fulls and the half emptys

I like philosophising. My friends say I do it too much. I’m always looking for the thread that connects things (fights strong internal battle to talk about MBTI). Life is just so full of happenstances that when those patterns emerge you get to see how and why certain behaviours happen. It’s one of the things I’m acutely aware of when I deliver L&D solutions with a group of people. I’m not just interested in delivering the content. I’m interested in seeing what people are going through. What have I noticed from when you entered to when you left? And also it’s why I enjoy Twitter. What behaviour do I see with you from when I started following you to when I saw your last tweet?

At the same time, life is full of glass half full and half empty types. If something good happens, the half full types start to see other good things that happened. The half empty types will brush it off as an odd occurrence of life, atypical in their life.

So what happens when you start to focus on improving one aspect of your life?

In a previous post, I wrote about finding your signature strength. That is, a character trait that defines you, and permeates through everything you do.

When you are ill and you go the doctor, they ask a series of questions to isolate what the problem is. That funneling process is key to knowing how to treat you. Most of the time they’ll be spot on. The times they’re not is when they haven’t asked the right questions to know where to focus. It’s all a learning process. And when they’ve got it, when they’ve nailed it, and they treat your illness, eventually you’re back fighting fit.

People with multiple problems in life will be referred to a lot of different services to help them. Counselling for depression. Alcoholics anonymous for people who are addicted to alcohol. Support groups for people taking drugs. Therapy for mental illness. Clinics to help reduce obesity. Some of those people will never be able to life fulfilled lives because there’s just too much going wrong. The best they can hope for is a manageable life. Those who can be helped, are helped because they’ve got the right interventions to get them out of their private hell. The focus is clear and unwavering. Eventually, for those in the last statement, their life gets better.

Humans are good at making things happen. When we see a clear destination point, and we’ve got the right motivation to get there, we’ll do it. What surprises us is when other things in life suddenly start to happen too. That’s not happenstance though. That’s us being highly conscious and being are best selves.

This is what I’m hoping to help people do.

Next Friday (17th August) I’m holding Positive Psychology in Application. 21 people are attending so far. I want to give them focus to help themselves get some clarity on affecting one area of their life. My hope is that once they do, they’ll start to feel more positive about other aspects of their lives, and what they can do to enhance that.

I’d like it if you booked on, and I can help you too.

I don’t know much

As a people, we’re hardwired into seeing things from one point of view and one point of view alone. Evolution hasn’t done a lot to help with the whole flight or fight response we’re ladened with. The part of the brain that forces us into this mode of thinking – the amygdala – sits there waiting for shit to hit the fan. And it’s a bloody good thing to. Well, in this day and age you might question how useful it is to have a physical reaction to something when we don’t know if it is truly a life or death situation.

But let’s think about that. In days gone by, when loincloths were the height of fashion, you needed to know pretty darn quick if that big hairy tusky beast was about to kill you or run away. Fast forward several thousand years, and we certainly don’t face that anymore. But we certainly do face an intriguing array of events that the amygdala forces us to choose one set of actions over the other.

At work, you’re setting about your day to day and get an email from Brian. It’s rather rude, accuses you of some things, has cc’d an array of people and made your name mud. You feel the heat rising in your blood and your anger levels rising? That’s the adrenalin. Caused by the amygdala.

On your commute, you’re idly walking along and not paying attention to the other people walking at speed by you. Someone knocks straight into you who equally was walking idly. That blood rising and making you jump back to your feet finding your solid footing? That’s your amygdala working it’s magic again.

You’re delivering a presentation and start to get challenged by an audience member. You don’t know how to respond to the questions and start to break down and fall apart. You lose your focus, a stutter develops you never knew you had, and you sweat. Pretty interesting what this amydala does to you, eh?

So what can we do about it? Well nothing really. Not initially anyway. What you need to start doing is reading. What you need to start doing is talking to people. You need to go out an experience different situations. You need to listen to different music. You need to try different foods. You need to learn a new skill. You need to be challenged in ways never challenged before. You need to get married. You need to get divorced. You need to experience loss. You need to find love. You need to have sex. You need to sit in silence. You need to stop the amygdala taking over your life.

But don’t think for one moment it’s the amygdala making you react the way you do. By doing the things I’ve just mentioned, they help you overcome the chemical reaction triggered by the amygdala. Once you’re passed that initial reaction, it’s all down to you and what you choose to do. And that is when you start to live.

Do I regret my career choice?

T’other day on Twitter, I made a flippant comment about choosing L&D as a career over being a bhangra dancer. Wendy Jacob threw the question over the fence – do you regret your choice? And I never responded. Because it’s a bloody interesting question.

I see what my friends are doing around me as the first port of call. From my teenage years, this has always been what I’ve done. It’s been my measure of success. As an only child, I didn’t have siblings to measure myself against. I had cousins, but most were older than me, and the ones near my age, were either living too far away for me to give any real attention, or not that close. So, to my friends I’d look, and I’d observe. There was Richard I remember. He was a clever kid. In the top of the class. I was a middling student mostly. And carried on so throughout my education. Enough to get by, and enough to do well enough to get the pass mark. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not as academically astute as others, or if I didn’t apply myself enough. I’ll say it’s a bit of both.

While at college, we then had to think about university and what subjects we’d be studying. I had friends going off to Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Luton and there was me at UEL studying Psychology at undergraduate. At university, friends went off to study masters in chemical engineering and medicine. I couldn’t decide what my path needed to be after being an undergraduate, but realised unless I specialised in a field of psychology my prospects for working in the field weren’t that great. So after some time, I thought about doing occupational psychology.

Which brought us into the world of work. Friends had joined the civil service graduate scheme, management consulting firms, accountancy firms, and became qualified teachers and I was working part time doing temp work. When I finished my MSc, it took me a few months to get a real job, at QVC. And boy was I chuffed! I saw my friends doing well around me. High paid jobs, or jobs with responsibility, and I was a Training Officer.

After some years with them, I decided it was time to move on. And joined a training company called The Outsourced Training Company as a consultant whose primarily role was to deliver all things occupational psychology. And that made me grow some. More than some, I grew a lot in that role. Learned a lot. Having been made redundant by them, I found a role at LBi. And have been here since. And this role brought with it a lot of autonomy and a lot of opportunity to spread my wings. So I have done.

But what have I learned in that time? Surely I must have achieved stuff? Well yes, and no. I’ve learned broad things about myself. I’m clearly a people person. I’m clearly someone motivated by engaging with others. I’m clearly someone who enjoys the work he does. I’m clearly someone who has learned how to build a reputation. I’ve also learned how to take feedback on performance. I’ve learned I don’t get on well with everyone. I’ve learned even though you may enjoy your job, it’s not always fun and games.

Do I regret my choice to go into L&D? Sometimes, yes. Because I see what else is potentially available out there. I see people working in other fields and I learn about what they do, and I think bloody hell that sounds fascinating. And I see other salaries that people earn. I’m not greedy like that, and I’m not exactly struggling, but I do marvel at the worth attached to some roles. Then, I see what is potentially on the horizon for me in my current role, or with other companies.

But then I look at where I’m at. I look at my life. I look at my wife and my kids. I look at my family. I look at my friends and I look at my connections. I look at my lifestyle, my health and my personal development. And I realise that this is exactly where I want to be. I have ambitions and aspirations like most people, but am not deluded to think I’m not a lucky guy. I’m awesomely lucky to be in this role, doing what I do, and with the skill to be able to do it. So, do I regret making my choice?

No, because I knew exactly what I was doing.

An opportunity I almost missed

Friday night, circa 7pm.

“Hello, sorry to have disturbed you while you’re with your family. I’m just going round to see if you’d like to buy some things I have. I’m on a youth offenders scheme and trying to make amends by earning money doing this. If you have a minute, I can show you what I have. If not, I’ll make my way on with a smile on my face.”

The kid was 20 years old. I told him I didn’t have a minute as I was with my family. This was no lie, I really was. They were huddled round me at the doorstep. He said Thais and went off on his way. And then I got the worst sense of guilt I have felt in a long time. Why did I turn him away? Because he troubled me? Because he looked like a bit of a scruffien? Because I didn’t want to part with my money? I don’t know, maybe all of the above, maybe some other stuff.

Minutes later I went looking for him. We live on a closed estate, so finding him wasn’t going to be hard, my only fear was he’d have simply moved on to the main road. I found him, and told him to head back to mine once he’d finished. He said he was due to finish and was happy to come on over there and then.

Me: You look like you’ve had a hard day?
Him: you really don’t know how hard it’s been mate.
Me: What are you doing this for?
Him: I did some pretty bad stuff a whie ago, and I’ve come to realise that if I want to have a better life for myself, I need to try and make something of myself. I reckon if I can do this, I can do anything. I’ve got myself on a engineering course at college, and I need money to help me get through it.
Me: Sounds like a good plan you’ve got for yourself there. Are you from round here?
Him: No, I’m from Derby. (I live in Epping – more than 200 miles from his home town).
Me: Blimey! Look, I’m sorry i turned you away at first, but I was getting ready to put my kids to bed.
Him: It’s ok, I understand I have a two year old myself.

At my house, he went on to show me what he had in his bag. Simple household type goods – sponges, oven mitts, tumble dryer balls, micro fibre cloths. And some car cleaning stuff too – chamois leather cloths, car sponges. He explained he gets half of what he sells. The other half goes to the agency helping him to do this work.

I agreed to buy some items, and showed him to the door. Before he left I had to give him some advice. His starting story was bang on the mark. He was very humble in his approach, explained enough about what he was trying to do, and never tried to pull on my heart strings with lines like – oh go on mate, if you don’t help me out I’ll go hungry. He kept it simple and short. That’s why I went after him. I believed his story and felt he was genuine.

There was some advice from my days at QVC that I thought could serve him well too. Essentially he’s doing the same job they do. Selling day to day items and trying to make them seem attractive.

I was struck at this kid’s strength and determination to do better for himself. He fully recognised what was going on in the world, and how people can react to him. I didn’t want to be another person that let this guy down. He looked like he’d had enough knocks. I don’t know what the future holds for him. I wish him well. I hope he’s able to truly learn and pick himself up from this work he’s doing, and is able to go on and complete his engineering course. And further down the line I hope he’s able to provide for his child and raise him with the set of values that he seems to now be learning for himself.

True story.

Sometimes, life is just life

Hello! Well, Friday comes around again, and so far this morning my Twitter stream has been full of chatter about an array of things. And that’s one of the things I truly enjoy about Twitter. Life just carries on. We all live in a bubble. And we choose to poke out and see what’s happening. Sometimes we interact, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we reveal things, and sometimes we’re just being apathetic.

So, today I offer you a chance to remind  yourself of what’s happening. Not what’s important, but just what’s happening. Take this moment to be mindful. Don’t be cynical, don’t be positive, just observe.

There’s a lot to be said for being mindful. What’s my body doing right now? Where are my thoughts taking me? Who am I talking with? What is that person doing there? Is this commute really so bad? What’s happening at home? Did I read today’s news yet?

Do with this what you will. But remember, sometimes, life is just life.

Life is too damn interesting

A short post from me today. If you look at my Twitter timeline, you might notice a lot of what I talk about has little to do with L&D. Probably 60% is to do with every day occurences, 10% are probably RT’s of some kind, 10% is shameless blog promotion and the rest is a mix of sports or news tweets. Equally, my blog content is hardly 100% focused on L&D. I’ve talked about family, personal thoughts, my religion, my culture, recruitment, HR, and L&D. As someone who’s allegedly proclaiming to champion L&D, how do I qualify that?

Well, it’s simple really. Any L&Der worth their salt will verify that what we do is facilitate life skills. I’m no more an expert on this topic than you are. There’s no golden rules. There’s no holy grail. We use whatever tools are at our disposal to communicate a message. If it works, all is right with the world. If it doesn’t, then we are in a very fortunate position that very little serious consequence will arise from it.

Even in training events, I don’t care about the deck I’m using. Well, of course I care about it, the message has to be right, but I don’t care if I use it or not. I’m the one who’s facilitating the message not the deck. Nor do I care if I’m continuinally singing about L&D. Life is just too damned interesting.

And at the end of the day that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m trying to facilitate a sesison to help you be in a better situation so that you can focus on what interests you in life. That’s why I enjoy L&D. Because I get to have conversations with you that enter so many interesting directions, it’s what drives me and motivates me.